Situated about 46 kilometers north of Trincomalee.
Girihandu Seya is reputed to be the first Buddhist temple built in Sri Lanka during the Lord Buddha's period and an important shrine where Buddhists worship in Sri Lanka. The recorded history of Girihadu Seya goes back to the 3rd century BC.
An information inscription located on the site describes: “2661 years ago, two brothers, international traders named Tapassu and Bhalluka who offered some victuals to the Buddha, in the 8th week after his enlightenment. They are considered the first lay disciples of Lord Buddha who sought the refuge of the Master and the Dhamma. And on request the gifted them with a handful of sacred hair relic of the Lord Buddha, protected and brought it here and laid it in this Sthupa. This Sthupa which is called the Girihandu Seya was constructed and completed within 75 days of the enlightenment of the Lord Buddha. The ancient Kings, Girikandisiva and the 6th Agbo constructed the Vetadageya (circular shrine house) and the stone steps leading to this Vetadageya which is built on a little rock hill. This was the 1st Sthupa built in the world and the first Buddhist temple constructed in Sri Lanka. The Lord Buddha had stepped into this sacred place”.
As such this shrine would have been built during the lifetime of Lord Buddha. The present structure or the ruins of the vatadage (circular relic house)consisting of a small stupa encircled by two concentric circles of stone pillars and a retaining wall of stone slabs, however is believed to have evolved with time.
The four entrances at the cardinal points are provided with moon stones, makara balustrades and
naga guardstones . The moonstones are plain except for a lotus petal carving at the circumference. The guardstones are the most striking artistic feature. The Naga kings are depicted as having an air of austerity, not overloaded with jewellery and are benign in expression. According to scholars these qualities along with their elongated limbs suggest the Pallava style of art belonging to a phase earlier than Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa.
Another unusual feature here is the evidence of a wooden upright of a railing which may have covered the space between the top of the stone wall and the roof.
Around the vatadage are seen the remains of image houses of which the largest housed a large recumbent Buddha image.
On the terraces lower down the hill are ruins of monastic structures, ponds and 300 flights of steps leading to different levels. A stone bridge indicates that an ancient highway passed this site. Some rock caves bear early Brahmi inscriptions indicating the existence of a monastery even during pre-Christian times. The earliest datable inscription at the site is the pre-Christian Brahmi inscription recording the dedication of a cave to the Buddhist monks.
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